244 VEBDICT OX IXDIA
Which brings us to what is really the paramount Indian^
economic problem — the condition of agriculture* We have seen
that nine out of every ten Indians live an entirely rural life and,
of these, eight are directly employed in agriculture. However
rapid may be India's industrial development it is obvious that for
many years to come it must remain primarily an agricultural
country, so that every progressive scheme must begin with the
You must plan for the peasant or you might as well not plan
at all, for until you have raised his purchasing power you will
only be building castles in the air.
Of course most of the planners, particularly the British planners,
arc building castles in the air. with enviable rapidity and elan,
merely because as usual they refuse to acquaint themselves with
the facts. The India of fact is, indeed, precisely the opposite of
the India of fancy — of most rneiVs fancy, that is to say, including
Milton's when he wrote of 'the wealth of Ormus and of Ind/
They think of her as a country with an almost inexhaustible
supply of land ; actually she is cramped and overcrowded. Th^,
think of this land as stocked with an equally inexhaustible supply
of natural wealth ; in reality nearly a third of it is useless waste
and there are numerous grave deficiencies, for instance in coal.1
This rich lush land of the popular imagination, in terms of cash,
is worth on an average only 56 rupees an acre, which is a quarter
of the English value and a third of the Japanese.
Whose fault is this ?
It is certainly not entirely Britain's ; but equally certainly it is
not entirely India's.
The great majority of Indian agriculturists are still living in
terms of the middle ages, apparently in total ignorance of the
simplest rules which have become second nature to worker^, on
the soil, in most other countries. Their tools are antediluvian :
they know nothing of the rotation of crops ; and the prime need
of the Indian soil — fertilizers — goes up, literally, in smoke. Cow
dung, which is in many ways the richest of all natural manures
1 Fantastic estimates of India's 'potential1 coal supply are often made,
appear to be mostly wishful thinking. JU the moment India produces barely
one-tenth of the coal produced in Britain.